This game was over at the half. Yes, Xavier came back, and yes, they occasionally looked like they might make it a one possession game, but this was done with 20 minutes to go. Once again, Xavier left themselves too much to do and just didn’t have enough in the tank.
The game swung in the final five minutes of the first half. In that span Xavier went from down three to down 17. That decided the game. In that stretch Xavier simply could not get right. They turned the ball over three times, went 1-5 from the floor, and got just two stops. The game was over as a contest at that point.
Far more disturbingly, Xavier’s players showed no sign of doing anything to arrest their terminal slide off the mountain. A Twitter follower compared it to being on the Titanic as it went down. That may be apt, but assumes that the victims of that tragedy at least thrashed around a bit. Xavier slipped beneath the waves with barely a whimper. As Gampel Pavilion roared, the Musketeers seemed nihilistically resigned to their fate.
The second half run was briefly entertaining and at least showed that the team does care. Adam Kunkel was brilliant. If the entire team played with his fire, this season would be different. Colby Jones wasn’t terribly effective, but no one will question the young man’s effort. Time and again he went to the offensive glass. Dwon Odom defended well, but still made the momentum killing mistakes that seem to define his game.
And that brings us to Zach Freemantle. He is perhaps the most disappointing Xavier player of this current era. Allegedly an all Big East performer, he has taken his butter soft game to an entirely new level of human fragility. At this point he is a essentially the team’s whiner in chief and seems to be mentally out of most games the instant someone bodies him. In his current state, a good MAC big man would abuse. Of course this meant he felt free to lift five three pointers and end Xavier’s last two meaningful possessions with a long two and three. Attempts, of course. Neither ever looked close to going in. Xavier is a better team without Freemantle on the floor.
And it’s incumbent upon the coach to see that. He hasn’t. Xavier was outscored 25-7 after the under four in each half. In each half Freemantle was out there taking up space better used by someone who could add something to the team. Steele’s rotation of Kunkel and Odom in the second half was odd at best, and his insistence on putting Paul cruggs back in late didn’t help. Absolutely no one who doesn’t look like a guy you would pick on your team for a knife fight covered themselves in glory today, and the coach is on that list as well.
Xavier may yet make the tournament. At this point I just hate that I still care this much.